Can you believe that in my 25 years of autumn-loving life, I had never gone pumpkin picking before? Well, there’s a first time for everything. Frank and I paid a visit to Harbes Family Farm & Orchard in Riverhead and later visited the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns in Old Westbury. Double the pumpkin fun!
Harbes Farm & Orchard
Now, let me say that if you are a fan of pumpkin picking, you need to go to Harbes Farm because it’s like the motherload of fall activities all in one. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people descend onto the Mattituck and Riverhead farms every weekend to pick pumpkins from rather large pumpkin patches (some pumpkins are still on the vine). But that’s not all, folks. In Riverhead, there’s also an apple orchard and a huge corn maze that separates the two.
Additionally, there is the “Wine Barn” selling… you guessed it, wine, as well as a food barn market that sells everything from hot dogs to apple cider donut. The apple cider donuts are freshly made daily. Yum! Live music, a Long Island food truck and live barnyard animals (sheep, ponies and chickens) complete the fall vibes.
You don’t have to pay to enter the premises.
The pricing on the pumpkins are quite good. For example, regular pumpkins are 65 cents a pound. But pay attention to how much you’re grabbing if you intend to buy more than one or two pumpkins. The costs can add up quickly. Our cashier told us some people ended up paying $200-300 on pumpkins alone. Before you pay, your pumpkins are weighed on a scale by staff and the total is calculated there.
One of the things I love about this farm is how organized everything is. Prices are all clearly marked and the staff move things quickly. Yes, there are often two-steps to buying pumpkins (weigh then pay a few feet away) and food (pay and then head to the market for pickup) but it just keeps order. Don’t be worried about the long lines because they move quickly.
If you think the pumpkin prices are too much money, don’t feel obligated to get them there. You can honestly walk in, take photos, and walk out without the pressure of buying. You enjoy all of the other activities without having to go pumpkin picking. There are also plenty of places selling pumpkins on the street leading up to Harbes Farm if you want to do that.
The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns
Last year, I visited the The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor and it was stellar. I loved the creativity of the pumpkin carving and the structures made. The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns takes it to another level when it comes to pumpkin carving.
The best thing about the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns is that it’s inspired by pop culture. There were a number of pumpkins intricately carved to show off Game of Thrones characters as well as structures dedicated to the Justice League. If you’re a sports fan, all of New York’s major teams were also represented. Though I’m still on the fence regarding the standalone “Evil Manning” pumpkin!
I bought some hot cider (and yes, I bought cold cider during the day – sue me), and took in the 5,000 freshly carved pumpkins. No other pumpkin display in the northeast tackles that amount of fresh pumpkins every week.
For directions, do not simply type in ‘Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns’ into Google Maps. You need to follow the address that the email provides you with. This year, the Rise actually takes place at the Old Westbury Gardens, so if you know how to get there, you may not even need to follow the map directions. Be cautious of the entrance though because there are no signs for it PLUS it’s a one lane entrance in but someone may not follow directions and they may exit there.
The best time is to go at night…the later, the spookier, the better. Mind you, when you go at night, your photos may come out a tad dark and YOU WILL NOT SEE THE PUMPKINS AS IF THEY WOULD APPEAR IN DAYTIME. Not entirely sure how people don’t realize that but I heard many say their photos weren’t showing the entire pumpkins.
When people are crowding around, you can walk to other parts of the exhibition. After all, this is a stroll around looking at pumpkins. You’re walking along with stranger and you don’t need to stick together (although you should try to stay close to your group because you might find yourself talking or grabbing someone who looks like someone you’re with but it’s not actually them.) You can also walk back and forth a few times before leaving.
Haves you been to Harbes Farm or Rise of the Jack O’Lantern? Let me know what you think!